Maui Hospital Weighs Options in Face of Budget Shortfall

April 3, 2015, 7:19 AM HST · Updated April 6, 4:39 PM
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Wesley Lo. MMMC courtesy photo.

Wesley Lo. MMMC courtesy photo.

By Wendy Osher

Hospital executives on Maui are weighing their options in face of a multi-million dollar shortfall that could mean a cut to jobs and services in the health care sector if funding or legislative backing of a public-private partnership is not secured.

“If you’re cutting expenses, you’re probably cutting your ability to earn money too, so you’re chasing your tail. It’s a race to the bottom and you’re never going to get there,” said Maui Region Chief Executive Officer for the Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation, Wesley Lo in a radio interview on Pacific Media Group’s KPOA 93.5 FM this morning.

The discussion comes a week after the Maui Region Board for the Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation voted to approve $28 million in cuts to services and positions for the Fiscal Year 2016 if necessary, in light of continued budget shortfalls for the region.

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The cuts are among a list of three options, that Lo detailed today, the likes of which include: (1) the state legislature opting to give Maui hospitals more money in the budget; (2) getting approval from the state legislature to grant Maui hospitals the ability to form a public-private partnership; or (3) implementing cuts to jobs and services at Maui’s HHSC hospitals, which include Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and Lānaʻi Community Hospital.

“Unfortunately, we looked at the budget and they’ve got to give us more money or let us do this (partnership).  We’re going to be $28 million short next year.  I wouldn’t even know how to cut $28 million of the budget without hurting the community. How would you do that,” said Lo.

Lo said that the only way to continue to grow is to invest in revenues and control costs. “Over the last few years, we’ve done our best trying to grow services–we have the heart and stroke services–that’s really benefited us,” said Lo.

“The legislators have to know how important the hospital is to the community.  Can you imagine not treating cancer here on Maui? I cannot.  Can you imagine not delivering babies here on Maui? I cannot,” he said.

In an announcement last week, board members said areas being reviewed for service cuts include: heart, surgical and intensive care units, oncology, obstetrics and gynecology services and physician call coverage.  According to the announcement, the cuts may affect current services to all three of the region’s hospitals.

Lo noted that MMMC implemented cuts adolescent behavior health unit several months ago, attributing the action to both cost savings and inability to secure doctors.

“Right now the legislative session is almost pau and I think we need to have a discussion now,” said Lo.  “We think it’s an important discussion.  We think health care is critical to the community; not only health care, but also (its affect on) the economy, tourism, everything–health care is an important piece,” he said.

Under option#2, a public-private partnership, Lo said the Maui hospital could invest money to grow services and start adding more jobs.

“Maui could provide a lot more services for our community; and if you provide more services, you get more revenue; if you get more revenue, it’s really an opportunity to really affect the health care system positively,” said Lo.

***Note: The radio interview was conducted at Pacific Media Group’s KPOA 93.5 FM radio station with program director Alakaʻi Paleka.  PMG is the parent company of Maui Now.

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